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DRPS : Course Catalogue : School of Philosophy, Psychology and Language Sciences : Philosophy

Postgraduate Course: Mind and Body in Early Modern Philosophy (PHIL11113)

Course Outline
SchoolSchool of Philosophy, Psychology and Language Sciences CollegeCollege of Arts, Humanities and Social Sciences
Credit level (Normal year taken)SCQF Level 11 (Postgraduate) AvailabilityAvailable to all students
SCQF Credits20 ECTS Credits10
SummaryEver since Descartes argued that the mind and body are distinct, separable substances whose essential natures are diametrically opposed to one another, understanding the union of the mind and body came to be regarded as problematic: how could the immaterial mind or soul bring about changes in the physical body and vice versa? A variety of solutions, and their associated scientific and theological implications, dominated philosophical speculation for the rest of the century. Through an examination of core texts, this course will explore the principal accounts offered in the mid- to late-seventeenth century: the Cartesian doctrine of interaction, Spinoza's theory of mind-body identity, Malebranche's occasionalism, and Leibniz's pre-established harmony. Each will be subjected to critical evaluation by examining arguments advanced in their favour and objections against, particularly those raised by contemporaries, such as Pierre Gassendi, Princess Elizabeth of Bohemia, Pierre Bayle, Simon Foucher and François Lamy.
Course description Questions about the nature of the mind, the nature of the body, and how the mind and body relate to each other dominated discussions among early modern philosophers, especially among those typically known as 'rationalists': Descartes, Spinoza, Malebranche and Leibniz. This course compares and contrasts their respective positions: Cartesian interactionism, Spinoza's identity theory, Malebranchean occasionalism and Leibniz's pre-established harmony. The course subjects the arguments they offered in defence of their views to critical evaluation by exploring (i) their critical reactions to each other, (ii) criticisms offered by other early modern philosophers such as Pierre Gassendi, Princess Elizabeth of Bohemia, Pierre Bayle, Simon Foucher and François Lamy, and (iii) further independent criticism and evaluation of their respective positions and philosophical arguments.

Students are expected to read texts (in English translation) in advance and be prepared to enter into class discussion of the topics raised.
Entry Requirements (not applicable to Visiting Students)
Pre-requisites Co-requisites
Prohibited Combinations Other requirements None
Information for Visiting Students
High Demand Course? Yes
Course Delivery Information
Not being delivered
Learning Outcomes
On completion of this course, the student will be able to:
  1. appreciate the complexity and variety of early modern accounts of the relation between the mind and the body.
  2. demonstrate understanding of the different views of the relation of mind and body offered by seventeenth century rationalist philosophers.
  3. analyze and critically assess the arguments the early modern rationalist philosophers (Descartes, Spinoza, Malebranche, Leibniz) gave to support their philosophical views and how these fit within their respective wider philosophical systems.
  4. construct his or her own arguments for and against the positions on mind-body relations of the philosophers studied in this course.
Reading List
Indicative Bibliography: Core Texts
Descartes, The Philosophical Writings of Descartes, tr. & ed. by J. Cottingham, R. Stoothoff and D. Murdoch, vols. 1 & 2 and vol. 3 (with A. Kenny) (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1984-85) (Online access, EUL)

Spinoza, The Collected Works of Spinoza, tr. and ed. by E. M. Curley, vol. 1 (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1988) (Online access EUL)

Malebranche, Nicolas, Search After Truth, ed. & tr. by T. M. Lennon and P. J. Olscamp (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1997)

Malebranche, Nicolas, Dialogues on Metaphysics and on Religion, ed. by N. Jolley, tr. by D. Scott (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1997)

Leibniz, Leibniz's 'New System' and Associated Texts, ed. & tr. R. S. Woolhouse & R. Francks (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1997)

Leibniz, Philosophical Essays, tr. and ed. by D. Garber and R. Ariew (Indianapolis: Hackett, 1989) (online access EUL)

Indicative Bibliography: Secondary Reading
Garber, Daniel (1983). 'Understanding Interaction: What Descartes Should Have Told Elizabeth', Southern Journal of Philosophy 21 supplement, 15-32.

Hampshire, Stuart (2005). Spinoza and Spinozism (Oxford: Clarendon Press).

Kashap, S.Paul (1972). Studies in Spinoza: critical and interpretive essays (Berkeley: California University Press).

Garrett, Don (1996). Cambridge Companion to Spinoza. (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press).

Lloyd, Genevieve (1996). Spinoza and the 'Ethics' (London: Routledge).

Nadler, Steven (2006). Spinoza's 'Ethics': An Introduction (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press).

Nadler, Steven (1994). 'Descartes and Occasional Causation', British Journal for the History of Philosophy, 2(1), 35-54.

Nadler, Steven (1992), Malebranche and Ideas (Oxford: Oxford University Press).

Pereboom, D. ed. (1999). The Rationalists: Critical essays on Descartes, Spinoza and Leibniz (Oxford : Rowman & Littlefield).

Phemister, Pauline (2006). The Rationalists: Descartes, Spinoza and Leibniz (Oxford: Polity).

Pyle, Andrew (2003), Malebranche (London: Routledge).

Radner, Daisie (1978). Malebranche: A Study of a Cartesian System (Amsterdam: Van Gorcum).
Radner, Daisie (1985). 'Is there a Problem of Cartesian Interaction?', Journal of the History of Philosophy, 23, 35-50.
Richardson, R. C. (1982). 'The 'Scandal' of Cartesian Interactionism', Mind, 91, 20-37.
Sprigge, T. L. S. (1977). 'Spinoza's Identity Theory', Inquiry: an interdisciplinary journal of philosophy, 20:1-4, 419-445.
Taylor, Jordan (2012). 'Occasionalism among the Cartesians', British Journal for the History of Philosophy, 20:3, 627-630.
Woolhouse, R. S. (1986). 'Leibniz's Reaction to Cartesian Interaction', Proceedings of the Aristotelian Society, 86, 69-82.
Woolhouse, R. S. (1993). Descartes, Spinoza, Leibniz: the concept of substance in seventeenth century philosophy (London: Routledge).
Woolhouse, R. S. ed. (1996). Leibniz's 'New System' (1695) (Florence: Olschki).
Yandell, David (1997). 'What Descartes really told Elisabeth: Mind-body union as a primitive notion', British Journal for the History of Philosophy, 5:2, 249-273.
Additional Information
Graduate Attributes and Skills Generic analytical and critical thinking skills; working to deadlines; competently using library resources
KeywordsMind,Body,seventeenth century philosophy,early modern philosophy
Course organiserProf Pauline Phemister
Tel: (0131 6)51 3747
Course secretaryMs Becky Verdon
Tel: (0131 6)50 3860
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